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Willmar secures first home victory with 6-2 triumph over Mankato

WILLMAR, Minn.—In their second home game of the year, the Stingers would not be denied a home victory after falling down early against Mankato. Despite surrendering two runs in the top half of the first inning, Willmar remained composed and spaced out six runs over three different innings to defeat the MoonDogs 6-2 at Bill Taunton Stadium Tuesday night.

Brantley Claunch was on the mound for the Stingers (5-3) for his first start of the year and experienced a bit of a rocky start to the contest. In the opening frame, Claunch gave up a triple and a pair of doubles that resulted in two runs total. But after the two-run first Claunch settled down and worked a spotless top of inning number two.

The offense fell right into line after the one, two, three top of the second as the Stingers came back to score three runs for their starter and take a one-run lead. All of the offense in the inning came after the first two outs were recorded, started by a double by Joey Hanowski. Hanowski then scored an a single by first baseman Alex Borglin, which was Borglin's first RBI of the season. However, the inning was far from over as the Stingers continued the rally with back to back walks by Scotty Smith and Dan Motl to load the bases for Sean Beesley. Beesley delivered, as he did several times throughout the game, with a two RBI single to bring both Borglin and and Smith home.

With a lead now in hand, Claunch went back to the mound in the bottom of the third inning, and after working into a jam found the right pitch at the right time to end the inning. Claunch had hit Spencer O'Neil of the MoonDogs (4-4) to load the bases in the top of the third, but with one down Claunch induced a ground ball to the right side of the infield. Second baseman Frankie Rios fed Max Dutto at second and with a strong play on the relay by Dutto, the Stingers turned the double play to keep the lead intact and escape the bases loaded jam.

A little while later in the bottom of the fourth, the Stingers took advantage of another opportunity to expand their lead to three and give Claunch some breathing room on the mound. Once again it was the bottom of the order starting the rally between Borglin and Smith, both of whom walked to put two on for Dan Motl. Motl then hit a soft single up the middle to score Borglin from second and put Smith just 90 feet away at third. Beesley did not let another runner in scoring position go to waste, as with a ground out back to the mound, Smith scored on a heads up play from third.

Claunch found himself in another jam in the top of the sixth in his last inning of work, but another double play ball helped him get out of danger and end the inning still with the 5-2 lead.

Josh Matheson would come out of the pen for the Stingers in his first appearance of the season to work the final three innings. Willmar's offense provided him with a little more breathing room with an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, and with two gone in the top of the ninth Matheson ended a runner on second MoonDogs' threat by getting Tyler Sullivan to line out to Frankie Rios to secure the win.

Claunch (2-0) picked up the win in six innings of work, giving up just two runs while scattering 10 hits without walking any opposing hitters. Brock Dykxhoorn (1-1) suffered his first loss of the year in just two innings of work. Sean Beesley led the Stingers with four RBI.

The 2014 season is brought to you by Charter. For more coverage of the Stingers visit wctrib.com.

Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Sean Beesley. CDI is your local medical imaging provider. It’s your choice where you go for medical imaging, for MRI, CT, mammograms and pain injections, choose CDI. Visit online at myCDI.com/CentralMN.